It’s National Singles Week
and as promised
, I would like to celebrate it by writing up my notes from my interview prep. Beth Hughes, the SF Chronicle reporter
, had asked me to talk about overcoming singlism (I know, that’s not really reflected in her article but it was great food for thought!).
Singlism is a term coined by Bella DePaulo to describe discrimination and bias against people who are not married or part of a couple. It comes in an overt form, such as the 1000+ benefits married folks get from the government. Yet, it also has an internalized aspect that is a reflection of the matrimanical myths we are bombarded with on a daily basis.
Overcoming singlism requires at least three elements
1. We need to recognize singlism both in society and in ourselves. A good place to start is DePaulo’s book since it helps clearly define singlism in society. You can also check out DePaulo’s two blogs (here and here) and, of course, I try to point out singlism wherever I see it. There is a growing body of books that can help as well.
2. We need to raise awareness by pointing out singlism wherever and whenever we see it and to counter the marriage myths. For example, I contacted my bank because they suggested security questions that assumed I am married. And I’ve written my fingers sore countering the way-too-insidious myth that married people are happier. Most research that claims to show married folks are more [fill in your favorite claim] than single people fall for the fallacy that correlation means causation. It does not. Otherwise, I could go out and buy an expensive car to get rich… (Hat tip to Kai). We can also counter singlism by presenting ourselves as examples of happily single people (at least most of the time, some dragon taming might be required sometimes .
3. We need to counteract singlism by embracing being single as a completely valid choice and by valuing all our relationships. On a more political level, we need to counteract singlism by demanding that benefits are disentangled from relationship status as Nancy Polikoff, for example, has outlined. We can support the Alternatives to Marriage Project, an advocacy group fighting for just such a separation of rights and status.
One of my favorite definitions of atheism is that I believe in one less god than believers. Well, we can apply the same thinking to living single: There are billions of potential partners out there. Most coupled people have chosen one of them and thus have not chosen billion others. As a single person, I simply choose one less partner than coupled people… There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, yet, it is somehow not considered a valid choice (most of the time).
Of course, none of this can be done in a vacuum. These elements are interdependent: We cannot counteract without recognizing singlism nor without raising awareness of singlism.